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A 26-step guide to training contract applications and interviews

updated on 20 February 2024

Here’s LawCareers.Net’s 26-step guide to the training contract application process, plus 10 mock interview questions to help you prepare.

Reading time: six minutes

The solicitors’ profession is highly competitive, with excellent candidates applying for a limited number of training contracts. However, with well-researched and prepared applications, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success!

Preparing your training contract applications

  1. Do your research and target the firms that you genuinely want to work for. Decide what type of work you want to do (eg, clinical negligence  environment or commercial). Consider the size of each firm, as well as its location – you must be able to explain why you’ve applied and why you’re right for the firm. Read the firm's website and brochure to get a feel for its practice areas and culture before conducting further research into the firm online, in the legal press and at in-person events (eg, law fairs and open days).


2. Concentrate on one application at a time. This ensures that each application is tailored to the individual firm you’re applying to. Always prepare a separate cover letter if this is allowed/required. Remember, the application is your chance to impress and market yourself to the firms. Show them what you know about them in detail.

To find out how to research firms thoroughly, read LawCareers.Net’s advice.

3. Get your CV and cover letter checked. Career services and recruitment agencies are usually more than willing to oblige. You can also run it past friends and family members (who have a good eye for spelling and grammar).

To discover how to make the most out of your careers service, read this LCN Says: ‘More than just careers advice: five things your university’s careers service can help you with’.

4. Apply in good time. You can check firms' deadlines for training contract applications on LCN. However, firms won’t wait until after the deadline to begin reviewing applications and offering interviews. It’s therefore best to start early, spend plenty of time on the application and submit well before the deadline.

5. Consider in-house legal departments, local government departments, the magistrates' court service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Government Legal Profession, which are also training contract providers.

Learn about these employers in LCN’s Alternative Careers section.

Read this LCN Feature to learn more about in-house training contracts and careers.

6. Get involved with your local Junior Solicitors Network – contact details are available on the Law Society website. Work experience is always viewed favourably. It's important, if you can, to try to secure a place on a vacation scheme, as this is a key part of the assessment process for many firms – for example,  lots of firms hire a large proportion of their trainees from the candidates who complete their vacation schemes. That said, many firms also understand that not everyone can make time for a vacation scheme for various reasons so they will also accept direct training contract interviews.

Read our interviews with law firm recruiters at various leading firms across the UK to find out how their training contract application processes work

However, all employment experience can be viewed favourably if you present it in the right way. So, if you worked in a restaurant, for example, be sure to emphasise how certain skills you used in the role have had a lasting positive effect that can be transferred into working at a law firm.

Find out which firms offer vacation schemes by using our Training contract search and see approaching deadlines on our Vacation scheme deadlines page.

7. Working as a paralegal may provide the way in and will likely count towards your two years' qualifying work experience as part of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route.

For more information on working as a paralegal, read LCN’s guide.

It’s also possible to skip a formal ‘period of recognised training’ altogether and apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be granted qualification as a solicitor based on your paralegal experience (this is known as equivalent means). You can only qualify via this route if you meet the SRA’s transitional requirements that have been put in place following the SQE’s introduction.

However, this is no easy shortcut and not all paralegal roles will afford the breadth of experience you need to qualify.

8. Be as flexible as possible in terms of where you can work.

9. Use university careers services for interview practise and links to local firms. Talk to people who’ve already had interviews. Anticipate the questions and prepare yourself for answers.

10. Use LawCareers.Net’s guide to the website to find out how you can make the most of LCN in your career search.

11. A 2:2 isn't a complete barrier to entry to the profession, although candidates with a 2:1 or higher stand a much better chance of getting a training contract. If you have a 2:2, play on other strengths of your CV – this might be the skills you’ve developed through work experience, for example.

To find out how to include extenuating circumstances in applications, read this LCN Says: ‘Extenuating circumstances in applications’.

If you have extenuating circumstances for not attaining a higher grade, most firms will take this into account. Firms aren’t merely looking for academic excellence but also for strong communication skills and enthusiasm for the law.

12. Don't forget to read our advice on researching firms when preparing to apply.

13. You should also visit LawCareers.Net’s Application hub for advice on various stages of the application, including interviews and what to wear.

Preparing for a training contract interview

14. Remember your aims at the interview stage are to sell yourself and evaluate the job to see whether you want it.

15. Get to know the job description and person specification.

16. Anticipate questions along the lines of, "If you were faced with this situation, how would you tackle it?" Use the STAR technique to answer competency-based questions. STAR stands for situation (describe the situation), task (explain what you had to do), action (how did you achieve the end goal) and result (conclude the result of your action). The STAR method is good for highlighting your ability to use your initiative and your problem-solving skills.

17. Be prepared to quote examples of your achievements to back up claims you make about your attributes – make sure you know everything you wrote on your CV well because you’re bound to be asked about it.

18. If it's a panel interview, find out the names of the panel members so you can refer to them by name when answering their questions.

19. Prepare questions on things you need to know about the job title, overall purpose, tasks, responsibilities, your immediate line manager and methods used for judging your progress.

20. Read LawCareers.Net’s advice on how to handle scenario-based questions at training contract interviews

Listen to LCN’s Commercial Connect podcast series as LCN’s Niamh Gray (they/them) breaks down various news stories that have caught our eye.


At the interview

21. Relax and be authentic – maintain good eye contact with the interviewer(s). Answer calmly.

For more advice read ‘LawCareers.Net’s 10 tips for training contract interviews’.

22. Don't just answer questions, ask them too – make it a discussion if you can.

23. Address your answers to all your interviewers and include each of them when you're speaking. Be positive, sell your attributes and quote your achievements.

24. Don't be negative and cause doubts – don't criticise your current workplace, your boss or yourself.

25. Acknowledge any weaknesses mentioned and explain specifically how you intend to improve on them.

26. At the end, sum up how you see the position. Reconfirm your interests and enthusiasm, and don’t forget to thank them for their time!

Mock questions

1. What are your strengths/weaknesses?

2. What skills did you learn from your last job/work experience?

3. What attracted you to this job?

4. What attracted you to this firm?

5. What do you know about us?

6. Tell us about a time you worked in a team.

7. Tell us about yourself.

8. If asked to carry out instructions you disagreed with, what would you do?

9. Tell us about a time you solved a complex problem.

10. Tell us about your hobbies/the achievements you’re most proud of.

Finally, be sure to watch LawCareers.Net’s video on how to prepare for a training contract interview, as well as this webinar with recruitment experts. Good luck!